[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Re: * Ultimate giga-bite * What's in a name? *....

jollyroger@wave.co.nz writes:

< Welcome to this edition of  DINOSAURNEWS.  For the full story visit the FREE
webzine at this address: http://www.dinosaurnews.org.
The headlines:>
<* *  What's in a name?
In the sixties, while still working for the National Museum in Harare,
Zimbabwe, Raath discovered the fossilised remains of what was then a new
genus of dinosaur near Bulawayo.  >

Check out the last two paragraphs of this article about 
_Syntarsus/Megapnosaurus_--from a South African newspaper (article written by 
Marleen Smith):

What's in a name?  October 04 2002 at 06:52PM

A beetle and a dinosaur do not usually have much in common. In fact, they are 
so dissimilar that they may just as well be described as opposites -whether 
in period, size, location or appearance.

But one species of beetle and one type of dinosaur do share something vital: 
a common name. Both were given the name Syntarsus, which is Latin for "joined 

To the layman this may only be of passing interest, but in scientific circles 
it has given rise to a bitter battle of international proportions.

Megapnosaurus means 'big, dead lizard'  
Dr Michael Raath of the Bernard Price Institute for Paleontological Research 
at the University of the Witwatersrand calls the whole thing a bad, sick joke.

In the sixties, while still working for the National Museum in Harare, 
Zimbabwe, Raath discovered the fossilised remains of what was then a new 
genus of dinosaur near Bulawayo.

It was of an animal about the size of a secretary bird, with a long bony tail.

Those were in the days of isolating sanctions against the old Rhodesia, 
without the Internet, and Raath had only the international zoological records 
in his museum to consult when deciding on an official name. Neither these 
records nor the colleagues he called up alerted him to any animal previously 
named Syntarsus.

Over the next nearly forty years the dinosaur he had discovered became one of 
the best-known, with its name used world-wide in scientific and popular 

Then, late last year, "a bolt out of the blue" struck when a young German 
student contacted Raath, saying that he had discovered a Madagascar beetle 
with exactly the same name.

The beetle was named and described by a French scientist a hundred years 
before Raath had named the Zimbabwean dinosaur.

In zoological terms this is not acceptable, and Raath and the German student 
immediately started searching for a solution. One of the names had to be 
replaced, most probably the beetle's, because the dinosaur's name had become 
very commonly used.

They were still busy with this, following the proper procedure as set out by 
the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature, when Raath received 
to his shock a report that his dinosaur had in the meantime been officially 
renamed by three American entomologists.

They had called it Megapnosaurus, meaning "big, dead lizard", a name Raath 
experienced as a "sick joke".

This created an intense commotion in scientific circles: "I was flooded with 
email from people supporting me and condemning them. I was interviewed by 
American, Italian, British and French newspapers," Raath said.

The entomologists claimed first that they did send him a letter to his 
earlier address in Zimbabwe (which he never received), and then that they 
were told that he was dead and that they could thus proceed with the 
renaming, Raath said.

The irony of it all was that this bitter episode in zoological naming history 
was not even necessary, Raath said on the sidelines of the biennial national 
conference of the Paleontological Society of Southern Africa, which started 
in Bloemfontein on Friday.

Research has done away with all the differences between the Zimbabwean 
Syntarsus dinosaur and a similar species in America, proving that they were 
actually of the same genus, and that the name Syntarsus was thus not 
necessary (for a dinosaur) any more. - Sapa